During a visit to the veterinarian how important is it to cater to the environmental needs of a cat?
Veterinarians and other caregivers are responsible for the health and well-being of our cats. They should not only advise clients about medical aspects but also point out the importance of a cat’s environmental needs. Various diseases and behavioural problems are related to stressful environmental situations. This is not about enrichment of the environment but about basic needs, which go beyond just physical environmental factors. Cats do not always show their stress and feelings of fear and vets are often not trained to recognise them. Usually, we are only aware of what is called bad, inappropriate and aggressive behaviour. The aim of the guidelines we have set out here is to encourage a proactive approach, making for happier cats and satisfied owners and a better relationship between veterinarian / caregiver and customer.
1. A safe resting place
2. Multiple, separate places for litter boxes/basic needs
3. Encourage play and natural predatory behaviour
4. Provide a positive, coherent and predictable interaction between human and cat
5. Provide an environment that respects the cat’s own odour/scent
In an animal clinic, cages must be large enough and animals should be kept separately. Cats must be kept in a different area from dogs and cat cages should not be placed opposite each other.
Cats in clinics should not be given toys that can make loud noise when they come into contact with the wall of the cage. During the recovery period the cat must be able to have appropriate regular play time and also consistency with regard to their caregivers. This enables the cat to develop trust in the caregiver and reduces stress.
Veterinarians / caregivers should be aware of the importance of fulfilling the basic needs of animals in their care
There should be a discussion about the environmental needs of the animals and there should be a designated person who is responsible for creating a cat-friendly environment within the practice and who provides information to the clients.
When a cat has to stay in the practice for a longer time then the basic needs of the animal should be taken into account as much as possible. This would include giving the cat a place to hide, respect sensitivity to odours, having the same caregiver on a regular basis etc.
Discuss with the client the environmental needs of their cat prior to the actual appointment. If a cat has stress-related problems and the advice available is insufficient, it is advisable to contact a behavioural therapist.
When adopting a cat from a rescue centre new owners should be informed about the importance of environmental needs. This can be done, for example, by creating a map of the home that identifies the ideal places for basic needs